Best balance transfer credit cards: 0% intro APR for 12-18 months

A balance transfer credit card can provide an effective way to reduce debt while temporarily avoiding interest charges. The best credit cards for balance transfers have introductory 0% APR offers lasting 12 to 21 months. Cards available from our partners could help you avoid APR on a transferred balance well into 2021 or even 2022.

Bankrate's Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards - Top Offers February 2021:

  • Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card: Best for excellent credit
  • Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card: Best for flexible rewards categories
  • Citi® Double Cash Card: Best for cash back rewards
  • BankAmericard® credit card: Best for no penalty APR
  • Citi Rewards+® Card: Best for rewards on small purchases
  • Alliant Visa® Platinum Credit Card: Best for low balance transfer fee
  • PenFed Gold Visa® Card: Best for low interest
  • Citi Simplicity® Card: Best for no late fees
  • Wells Fargo Platinum card: Best for good credit
  • Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card: Best for digital wallet users
  • U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card: Best for longest 0% balance transfer offer
  • SunTrust Prime Rewards Credit Card: Best for no balance transfer fee

Need more information?

Skip down to read our expert advice on balance transfer credit cards.

Best for excellent credit

Citi Image

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent (740 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Citi's secure website

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

Rewards Rate:
N/A
Welcome Offer:
N/A
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% for 18 months on Purchases
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% for 18 months on Balance Transfers
Regular APR:
14.74% - 24.74% (Variable)

Card Details

  • 0% Intro APR for 18 months on purchases from date of account opening and 0% Intro APR for 18 months on balance transfers from date of first transfer. After that the variable APR will be 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Balance transfers must be completed within 4 months of account opening.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
  • Get free access to your FICO® Score online.
  • With Citi Entertainment®, get special access to purchase tickets to thousands of events, including concerts, sporting events, dining experiences and more.
  • Shop with confidence knowing that you have dependable protection benefits, including $0 Liability on Unauthorized Purchases and Citi® Identity Theft Solutions.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for flexible rewards categories

Bank of America Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Bank of America's secure website

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

Rewards Rate:
Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases). Earn automatic 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases). Earn unlimited 1% on all other purchases.
Welcome Offer:
$200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% Introductory APR on purchases for 12 billing cycles
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% Intro APR for 12 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days
Regular APR:
13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

Card Details

  • No annual fee
  • $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice, automatic 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases) and unlimited 1% on all other purchases
  • 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee (min $10) applies to all balance transfers
  • No expiration on rewards
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25% - 75% more cash back on every purchase
  • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for cash back rewards

Citi Image

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent (740 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Citi's secure website

Citi® Double Cash Card

Rewards Rate:
Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
Welcome Offer:
N/A
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% intro for 18 months on Balance Transfers
Regular APR:
13.99% - 23.99% (Variable)

Card Details

  • Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
  • Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% - 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
  • If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including balance transfers) by the due date each month.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.99% - 23.99% based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for no penalty APR

Bank of America Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Bank of America's secure website

BankAmericard® credit card

Rewards Rate:
N/A
Welcome Offer:
N/A
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% Introductory APR on purchases for 12 billing cycles
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% Intro APR for 12 billing cycles for balance transfers made in the first 60 days
Regular APR:
12.99% - 22.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

Card Details

  • 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 12.99% - 22.99% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee (min $10) applies to all balance transfers
  • No annual fee
  • No penalty APR. Paying late won't automatically raise your interest rate (APR). Other account pricing and terms apply
  • Access your FICO® Score for free within Online Banking or your Mobile Banking app
  • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for rewards on small purchases

Citi Image

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent (740 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Citi's secure website

Citi Rewards+® Card

Rewards Rate:
Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Earn 1X ThankYou® Points on All Other Purchases.
Welcome Offer:
Earn 15,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for $150 in gift cards at thankyou.com
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% intro for 15 months on Purchases
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% intro for 15 months on Balance Transfers
Regular APR:
13.49% - 23.49% (Variable)

Card Details

  • The Citi Rewards+® Card - the only credit card that automatically rounds up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase - with no cap.
  • Earn 15,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for $150 in gift cards at thankyou.com
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.49% - 23.49%, based on your creditworthiness. Balance transfer fee — either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Plus, earn 1X ThankYou® Points on All Other Purchases.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.49% - 23.49%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Some of the offers on this page may have expired.

The information about the Citi Simplicity® Card, Wells Fargo Platinum card, Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa®, U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card and SunTrust Prime Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.


Your guide to reducing debt with a balance transfer credit card

Debt can cause a major disruption in your personal finances, affecting not only your current situation but also future credit opportunities. The good news is that you have the ability to calm things down with the help of a balance transfer credit card.

A 2019 Bankrate.com survey found that less than half of U.S. adults who owe credit card debt have applied for a balance transfer credit card. Of the people who did apply, however, more than three-quarters were approved.

On this page, you can check out recommendations for the best balance transfer credit cards available from our partners. You’ll also find useful everyday tips on managing debt.

To go ahead and start comparing offers, skip down to Bankrate’s recap of the best balance transfer credit cards.

Compare the best credit cards for balance transfers

Card Name Bankrate’s pick for Balance transfer Intro APR Period Regular APR
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card Excellent credit 18 months 14.74% – 24.74% variable
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card Flexible rewards categories 0% Intro APR for 12 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days 13.99% – 23.99% variable
Citi® Double Cash Card Cash back rewards 18 months 13.99% – 23.99% variable
BankAmericard® credit card No penalty APR 0% Intro APR for 12 billing cycles for balance transfers made in the first 60 days 12.99% – 22.99% variable
Citi Rewards+® Card Rewards on small purchases 15 months 13.49% – 23.49% variable
PenFed Gold Visa® Card Low interest 12 months 17.99%
Citi Simplicity® Card No late fees 18 months 14.74% – 24.74% variable
Wells Fargo Platinum card Good credit 18 months (on qualifying transfers) 16.49% – 24.49% variable
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card Best for digital wallet users 15 months (on qualifying transfers) 14.49%-24.99% variable
U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card Best for longest 0% intro balance transfer offer 20 billing cycles 14.49% – 24.49% variable
SunTrust Prime Rewards Credit Card Best for no intro balance transfer fee 36 months (at 3.25% variable) 11.24% – 21.24% variable

A closer look at Bankrate’s best balance transfer cards

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

Why we rate it best for excellent credit

The Citi Diamond Preferred Card offers one of the longest 0% introductory periods on balance transfers you’ll find anywhere: 18 months, after which a variable APR of 14.74% – 24.74% applies. With no rewards program, this card is ideally suited as a debt management tool. An excellent credit score is recommended to apply for the card, but using the balance transfer offer to pay down debt from another account could help you protect that status.

Read our Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card review.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

Why we rate it best for flexible rewards categories

If you’re a frequent shopper looking to optimize cash back potential, this card offers a lot to choose from. The choice category earns 3 percent cash back on one of the following categories such as travel, gas, dining, online shopping, drug stores or home improvement/furnishings and 2 percent on grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter (on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases). Plus, the 0% introductory APR offer for 12 billing cycles on purchases and balance transfers made within 60 days (13.99%-23.99% variable APR thereafter) can provide a temporary break from interest charges.

Read our Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card review.

Citi® Double Cash Card

Why we rate it best for cash back rewards

The Citi Double Cash Card offers an inventive cash back rewards program on top of a generous 18-month 0% introductory balance transfer offer (13.99% – 23.99% variable APR after the intro period ends). You’ll earn 1 percent cash back on every purchase and another 1 percent (2 percent total) when you pay for those purchases. This card can make it much easier for you to pay off existing debt, but you might be tempted to keep it for the rewards program well after the balance transfer offer expires.

Read our Citi® Double Cash Card review.

BankAmericard® credit card

Why we rate it best for no penalty APR

Balance transfers made in the first 60 days get 0% introductory APR for 12 billing cycles, which more or less translates to 12 months. The lack of penalty APR with the BankAmericard credit card adds another layer of protection against interest charges, although you might be subject to a flat late fee for missing an on-time payment. If you’re committed to paying off a transferred balance in a year or less, this card might be worth a look.

Read our BankAmericard® credit card review.

Citi Rewards+® Card

Why we rate it best for rewards on small purchases

With this card, Citi rounds up your rewards to the nearest 10 points — meaning that a $22 fill-up at the gas pump would earn 50 ThankYou Points instead of 44. The 15-month 0% intro APR offers for balance transfers and purchases (13.49% – 23.49% variable APR after) are middle-of-the-road, and the recommended credit score puts it out of reach for many applicants. However, thrifty consumers with excellent credit could use the balance transfer offer and the round-up feature to their advantage.

Read our Citi Rewards+® Card review.

Alliant Visa® Platinum Credit Card

Why we rate it best for low balance transfer fee

Most credit cards charge a balance transfer fee of 3 percent of the amount transferred, but the Alliant Visa Platinum Credit Card charges just 2 percent or $5, whichever is greater. Your introductory APR on balance transfers could vary from 0% to 5.99% depending on your creditworthiness, with 10.24% – 22.24% variable APR after. Having a balance transfer fee lower than the industry standard helps this card stand apart from competitors despite a relatively short 12-month intro APR offer.

Read our Alliant Visa® Platinum Credit Card review.

PenFed Gold Visa® Card

Why we rate it best for low interest

This card from the Pentagon Federal Credit Union and Visa offers 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 12 months, after which a fixed 17.99% APR applies. However, the standard APR for purchases begins at 7.49% for qualified applicants (7.49% – 17.99% variable APR), well below the average credit card interest rate. Although many cards have longer introductory offers that could save you more money on a balance transfer, the low starting point for this card’s standard APR is notable in its own right.

Read our PenFed Gold Visa® Card review.

Citi Simplicity® Card

Why we rate it best for no late fees

The Citi Simplicity offers one of the longest balance transfer intro periods currently available. You’ll have 18 months of 0% interest to pay down balance transfers made within the first 4 months (14.74% – 24.74% variable APR after, based on your creditworthiness). You’ll also enjoy the benefits of no late fees, no annual fees and no penalty APR. With no rewards program or sign-up bonus, this card is essentially a balance transfer machine.

Read our Citi Simplicity® Card review.

Wells Fargo Platinum card

Why we rate it best for good credit

This card’s introductory balance transfer offer (18 months at 0% APR on qualifying transfers, then 16.49% – 24.49% variable based on creditworthiness) is among the longest available from our partners. The recommended credit score to apply is in the good to excellent range (670-850), but the balance transfer offer and spending and budget management tools through My Money Map could appeal to credit-conscious consumers looking to manage debt.

Read our Wells Fargo Platinum card review.

Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card

Why we rate it best for digital wallet users

The Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa card offers two key opportunities. One, you can transfer a qualifying balance from another credit account and avoid APR for 15 introductory months, with the regular 14.49%-24.99% variable rate applying afterward. Two, you can earn 1.8 percent cash back (a 20-percent bonus) on qualifying digital wallet transactions during your first year of owning the card. Frequent mobile wallet users looking for balance transfer options will find a lot to like here.

Read our Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card review.

U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

Why we rate it best for longest 0% balance transfer offer

Zero-interest offers for balance transfers lasting 20 months or more aren’t as common as they used to be, but the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card is currently a rare exception. You can transfer a balance to this card and pay 0% intro APR for 20 billing cycles (13.99% – 23.99% variable APR after).With no rewards program, the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum could provide a straightforward way to manage debt using a balance transfer.

Read our U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card review.

SunTrust Prime Rewards Credit Card

Why we rate it best for no balance transfer fee

The zero balance transfer fee offer is good for the first 60 days after your account opening. Still, depending on the size of the balance you’re transferring, the savings from avoiding a balance transfer fee could be worth a couple of hundred dollars. You should also note that this card’s 3 Year Introductory Offer at Prime Rate provides a longer window for paying off a balance, but the trade-off is that you would pay 3.25% variable APR rather than 0% APR during the introductory period.

Review for the SunTrust Prime Rewards Credit Card coming soon.

What is a balance transfer credit card?

A balance transfer involves moving debt from one credit account to a different account, typically by using a balance transfer credit card that has a lower interest rate than the original account. A balance transfer card can help you pay off debt by transferring your existing balance to a new credit card with a 0% intro APR period. During that time, you have the chance to pay off the principal without having to pay interest.

What is a balance transfer fee?

A balance transfer fee compensates a lender — in this case, the credit card issuer — for taking on the risk of issuing what amounts to a temporary interest-free loan. The typical fee is 3 percent or 5 percent of the balance being transferred. The fee might also have a minimum cash alternative, as in 3 percent or $5, whichever is greater. In most cases, you’ll have to pay the balance transfer fee upfront.

Although this fee is standard with most balance transfer offers, you might be able to avoid it. One option is to shop around for a credit card that doesn’t charge a balance transfer fee. Another possibility is negotiating the balance transfer fee with the credit card issuer.

Pros and cons of balance transfer credit cards

The advantages of balance transfers with 0% introductory APR offers include:

  • By temporarily avoiding interest on the debt you’ve transferred, you could save money on interest payments.
  • Over the long term, reducing debt can improve your credit utilization ratio, meaning that you’re using less of the credit available to you.
  • The temporary break from interest on your transferred balance could translate to a smaller monthly payment than what you’re currently making.
  • Depending on the card and the issuer, you might have the option of transferring a balance from another credit card, a loan or from multiple credit accounts. Grouping multiple debts into one new credit account is a type of debt consolidation.

The drawbacks of a balance transfer credit card include:

  • The best offers with the longest 0% APR terms tend to go to people who have good or excellent credit.
  • As with any credit card, applying for a balance transfer card typically leads to a short-term dip in your credit score.
  • If you don’t pay off the transfer entirely during the introductory period, the remaining balance will be subject to the new card’s regular APR.

The key to getting the most value out of a balance transfer credit card is to keep making your monthly payments during the intro period until the balance reaches zero. The potential benefits are significant, just as long as you hold up your end of the bargain.

Should you get a balance transfer credit card?

Used correctly, balance transfer cards with introductory zero-interest offers can help you:

  • Reduce debt while avoiding high interest. Debt can be expensive, especially credit card debt. As of February 17, Bankrate estimates the current average interest rate on credit cards at 15.99%. Most balance transfer credit cards come with 0% APR intro periods, which can help you save hundreds or even thousands of dollars on interest.
  • Simplify your finances. If you transfer multiple balances to one credit card, you’ll have just one monthly payment to keep track of. No more multiple accounts, passwords and payment due dates.
  • Improve your overall financial health. Credit utilization accounts for 30 percent of your credit score. The more credit you’ve used in relation to your available credit, the lower your score might be.

However, a balance transfer may or may not be the right move depending on your current situation. Consider two important questions:

How much do you want to transfer?

You typically can’t transfer a balance higher than your credit limit, and $10,000 is at the high end. The average credit limit on a new credit line for an account holder with super-prime credit is $10,069, according to the American Bankers Association’s Credit Card Market Monitor. If the debt you’re trying to address is above $10,000, you might consider a personal loan as an alternative to a balance transfer.

What’s your credit score?

By and large, it takes a good or excellent FICO Score (between 670 and 850) to qualify for a top balance transfer card with a lengthy introductory offer. Although you might find it easier to get a balance transfer card for bad credit, the tradeoff will probably involve a shorter introductory offer.

How to choose a balance transfer credit card

The best credit cards for balance transfers share a number of key features. To find the one that’s best for you and your unique financial situation, consider the following tips:

Choose the right card for your credit score

Most credit cards, including cards for balance transfers, list a recommended credit score to apply. Check your credit score before you start shopping and then compare it with each card’s recommended credit score to get an idea of whether you might qualify. Most balance transfer cards recommend credit scores ranging from good to excellent.

Look for a zero-interest or low-interest offer

The most useful balance transfer cards are the ones that include an introductory offer providing a temporary window to pay off the balance interest-free before the standard APR would apply. The second-best option would be a low-interest intro offer. If you can’t find a card with an introductory offer, at the very least look for one with a standard APR lower than what you’re currently paying.

Find the longest introductory offer you can

The longer the intro offer lasts, the more time you’ll have to pay down your transferred debt. A longer introductory period also translates to smaller monthly payments. Every month of temporary relief from interest represents potential savings.

Read the terms and conditions before you apply

You’ll find essential details in the card’s terms and conditions, including the balance transfer fee, penalties for late payments and how much time you’ll have to transfer the balance to qualify for the introductory offer. If you have trouble finding the information you’re looking for, call the issuer or go to their website.

Consider the card’s long-term value

Does the card have features that make it worth keeping after you’ve used the balance transfer offer to pay off debt? Credit card rewards shouldn’t be the main motivation behind getting a balance transfer card, but cash back or points can increase a card’s long-term value.

How to do a balance transfer

You don’t have to be an expert in personal finance to understand the balance transfer process. It’s essentially a matter of moving debt from one credit account to another. The main things to know are:

  1. Once you’ve applied for and received a balance transfer card, you’ll have a certain period of time (spelled out in the card’s terms and conditions) when you can make transfers that qualify for the zero-interest offer.
  2. Most issuers will have a process online or in their mobile app that allows you to make balance transfer requests. Depending on the issuer, you might be able to make the request by phone.
  3. You’ll need to give the issuer the account numbers of the card or loan accounts you want to transfer balances from.
  4. If you request your balance transfer online, your card issuer’s website will take you through a step-by-step process where you’ll select options and enter information on a series of screens.
  5. Look for confirmation. The issuer of your balance transfer card will notify you when the transfer is approved, but always check your other account(s) to make sure the old balance has been zeroed out. Pending charges made before you initiated the transfer will still show up.

If you have questions at any point in the process, contact a customer service representative for help. It’s your money, after all, so you’ll want to get everything right.

Survey: Consumers prioritize emergency savings over credit card debt

New research by Bankrate has found that more than one-quarter of Americans have more credit card debt than emergency savings. Results further indicate a pandemic-related trend in the lingering imbalance between savings and debt among American consumers.

Findings from Bankrate’s February Financial Security Poll include:

  • 54% have more emergency savings than credit card debt, the highest since 58% in 2018
  • 27% have more credit card debt than emergency savings, the lowest since 21% in 2018
  • 16% don’t have credit card debt or emergency savings, unchanged from a year ago

The obvious difference between economic conditions in 2020 and previous years is the coronavirus pandemic. The polling suggests that the ensuing economic downturn affected consumer priorities, according to Bankrate credit card analyst Greg McBride.

Another result of economic uncertainty was that many credit card issuers raised credit score requirements or restricted offers for balance transfer cards, a common remedy for credit card debt.

Get the full story with Bankrate: Read more about the financial security survey.

What debts can you transfer to a credit card?

Although balance transfers are primarily used for credit card debt, each issuer has its own rules for what types of debt you can transfer.

For example, Chase customers can transfer credit card balances only, but Bank of America and Citi both allow credit card balances, auto loans, personal loans, home equity and student loans to be transferred. However, most issuers will not let you transfer a balance from an existing account with that same issuer.

Also, some issuers let you transfer multiple debts to one balance transfer card, a form of debt consolidation.

Although it’s possible to pay off a loan with a balance transfer credit card, keep in mind that they’re best suited for managing smaller debts. It might be possible to transfer part of a large loan balance to a balance transfer credit card and get some relief from interest charges. The tradeoff would be the inconvenience of now having two credit accounts to keep track of instead of the one you started out with.

How much money could you save with a balance transfer?

If you’re paying down a large balance, a 0% intro offer could save you several hundred dollars or more.

Experian reports that the average credit card balance reached $5,315 in 2020. Here’s how much you could save by transferring $5,315 in debt to one of our best balance transfer credit cards, based on the following conditions:

  • That you would pay the balance transfer fee upfront and pay off a $5,315 balance within the intro offer period.
  • That with the two Alliant credit cards, you would qualify for an introductory APR of 0%. The actual rate could be 0% – 5.99% depending on your creditworthiness.
  • Potential savings with each card are calculated by comparing how much interest you would pay on your current card at 20 percent APR, minus the balance transfer fee.
Card Name Balance transfer intro offer period Regular APR Balance transfer fee Potential savings minus transfer fee
Citi Simplicity® Card 18 months 14.74% – 24.74% variable $159.45 (3%) $720
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card 18 months 14.74% – 24.74% variable $159.45 (3%) $720
Citi® Double Cash Card 18 months 13.99% – 23.99% variable $159.45 (3%) $720
Wells Fargo Platinum card 18 months on qualifying transfers 16.49% – 24.49% variable $159.45 (3%)* $720
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card 15 months on qualifying transfers 14.49% – 24.49% $159.45 (3%)* $575
Citi Rewards+® Card 15 months 13.49% – 23.49% variable $159.45 (3%) $575
Alliant Visa® Platinum Rewards Credit Card 12 months 13.24% – 23.24% variable $106.30 (2%) $486
Alliant Visa® Platinum Credit Card 12 months (on transfers made in first 60 days) 10.24% – 22.24% variable $106.30 (2%) $486
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card 12 billing cycles (on transfers made in first 60 days) 13.99% – 23.99% variable $159.45 (3%) $433
BankAmericard® credit card 12 billing cycles (on transfers made in first 60 days) 12.99% – 22.99% variable $159.45 (3%) $433
PenFed Gold Visa® Card 12 months 17.99% $159.45 (3%) $433

*The introductory balance transfer fee for the Wells Fargo Platinum and Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa is 3% for 120 days after account opening. The fee for each qualifying balance transfer after 120 days is up to 5%.

Do balance transfers hurt your credit score?

You might experience a temporary dip in your credit score after you complete a balance transfer. Applying for a new credit card involves a hard inquiry into your account and will shorten your average account age, and transferring multiple balances to one card will hurt your credit utilization ratio for that new card. These are all factors that make up your credit score.

However, consolidating your debt with a balance transfer credit card and successfully paying off your balance within the intro offer period can significantly reduce your overall credit utilization ratio and prove to lenders that you can be trusted to pay back lines of credit issued to you — both of which can raise your credit score dramatically over time.

What’s the longest 0% APR balance transfer offer?

Nowadays, 20 months and 18 months are the gold and silver standards for 0% intro APR offers with balance transfer credit cards. The average is probably closer to the 15-month range.

Here’s a look at some exceptional 0% intro APR offers on balance transfers available from our credit card partners:

Balance transfer credit card 0% intro APR offer Transfer a balance by February 28, 2021, and avoid regular APR until:
U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card 20 billing cycles (14.49% – 24.49% variable after)* October 28, 2022
Citi Simplicity Card 18 months (14.74% – 24.74% variable after) August 28, 2022
Citi Diamond Preferred Card 18 months (14.74% – 24.74% variable after) August 28, 2022
Citi Double Cash Card 18 months (13.99% – 23.99% variable after) August 28, 2022
Wells Fargo Platinum card 18 months on qualifying transfers (16.49% – 24.49% variable after) August 28, 2022
Citi Rewards+ Card 15 months (13.49% – 23.49% variable after) May 28, 2022
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa 15 months on qualifying transfers (14.49%-24.99% variable after) May 28, 2022
PenFed Gold Visa Card 12 months (17.99% after)** February 28, 2022
Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card 12 billing cycles on transfers made in first 60 days (13.99%-23.99% variable after) February 28, 2022
BankAmericard credit card 12 billing cycles on transfers made in first 60 days (12.99%-22.99 variable after) February 28, 2022

*Terms and Restrictions Apply
**On transfers completed by March 31, 2021

CardSmart: Which offer is better, longer low APR or shorter zero APR?

Expert advice on choosing and using credit cards from BankrateAs you shop around for balance transfer credit cards, you might find that not all cards provide an introductory offer of 12-20 months at zero interest. Some cards have intro periods of low (but not zero) interest that last considerably longer.

One example is the SunTrust Prime Rewards Credit Card and its 3 Year Introductory Offer at Prime Rate. It provides a 36-month window on transfers made in the first 60 days, which is 80 percent longer than a zero-interest offer lasting 20 months. However, the trade-off is that you would pay 3.25% variable APR during the introductory period (and 11.24% – 21.24% variable after) rather than 0% APR.

It comes down to one question: Would you rather pay zero interest for nearly two years or low interest for a full three years?

To help you find the answer, we’ve used Bankrate’s Credit Card Payoff Calculator to simulate payoff plans with the SunTrust card and one of our top-rated zero APR balance transfer cards, the Citi Diamond Preferred Card. Here’s what paying off a $5,000 balance transfer would look like with each card:

SunTrust Prime Rewards Credit Card Citi Diamond Preferred Card
Principal $5,000 $5,000
Months to pay 36 18
Monthly payment $145 $286
Interest $254 $0
Balance transfer fee $0* $150 (3%)
Total cost $5,254 $5,150

*Intro offer on balances transferred during the first 60 days from account opening. Fee for balances transferred after the first 60 days is $10 or 3% of the amount of the transfer, whichever is greater.

More information on balance transfer credit cards

Want to know more about transferring balances to a credit card? Here’s a list of our top resources from Bankrate’s personal finance experts:

Balance transfer guides by credit card issuer

If you want to do a balance transfer with a specific bank or card issuer, Bankrate has detailed guides from the following financial companies:

How we chose our best balance transfer cards

Bankrate writers and editors have evaluated dozens of options to determine which cards are most likely to help you achieve your financial goals with a balance transfer. In this category, our 5-star scoring system pays particular attention to the essential features of a balance transfer credit card, including:

0% introductory APR offer

Balance transfer cards should ideally have a long 0% APR introductory offer — between 12 and 18 months, if not longer. You’ll have more time to pay off the transferred balance before the regular APR takes effect.

Regular variable APR

Regular variable APR is the interest rate that you will be charged after the introductory 0% APR period. Ideally, the low end of the variable APR range should be at least a few points below 16% with a high end no more than 30%.

Balance transfer fee

The best balance transfer credit cards will charge a low fee on transferred balances, or even no fee at all. If you have an excellent credit score, consider asking to have the fee lowered or waived.


Senior Editor Barry Bridges has been writing about credit cards, loans, mortgages and other personal finance products for Bankrate since 2018. His work has also appeared on websites including Nasdaq.com, Zillow.com and The Simple Dollar. He was previously an award-winning newspaper journalist in his native North Carolina. Send your questions about credit cards (and fantasy baseball) to bbridges@bankrate.com.

Have more questions for our credit cards editors? Feel free to send us an email, find us on Facebook, or Tweet us @Bankrate.

Frequently Asked Questions

As long as you have your account numbers and other information ready beforehand, the process of requesting a balance transfer shouldn't take more than a few minutes. Timelines for processing balance transfers vary from issuer to issuer. It could take 7 to 10 days, but in some cases it could take a couple of weeks — or even as long as a month. Depending on the issuer, the online "dashboard" for your balance transfer card's account might include a tracking feature that lets you follow the transfer's progress. In any case, keep an eye on your dashboard to see when the transferred debt appears on your new card.
The limit for balance transfer cards depends on the card, the issuer and specific aspects of your financial situation. Typically, issuers will let you transfer a balance (plus fees) that is no higher than your credit limit. If you want to make a balance transfer that exceeds your credit limit, you can call the issuer to ask if they'll increase it. While it's not guaranteed that the issuer will approve the increase, research by CreditCards.com found that cardholders had an 85-percent shot at getting a credit limit increase just by asking.
You might be able to get a balance transfer card with bad credit, but a bad credit score — which indicates more risk for the issuer — will make it difficult to qualify for an introductory zero-interest offer. You could get a balance transfer offer with a lower interest rate than what you're currently paying, if not zero interest. A personal loan is another possible option.
The Credit CARD Act of 2009 requires that introductory offers must be at least 6 months long, but offer periods can run as long as 21 months. The average is somewhere in the middle, with common offer periods falling at 12, 15 or 18 months. Unless you're transferring a very small balance (in which case your balance transfer fee might outweigh your potential interest savings), you probably want to have at least 12 months to pay off that balance.
You might be tempted to cancel your high-balance card once you transfer, but closing a credit card could hurt your credit score in two ways: reducing the average length of your open credit accounts and raising your credit utilization ratio. One alternative is to keep the old card open and occasionally use it for small purchases. Just be sure to maintain a schedule of on-time monthly payments.
A balance transfer check involves an offer to borrow cash or credit from your credit line. You can request one from your credit card issuer, or the issuer might send you one unsolicited. However, personal finance experts recommend caution since these checks frequently come with fees and high APR. Steer clear unless the balance transfer check includes a competitive zero-interest introductory offer or an APR lower than the rate you're currently paying on your debt.
Balance transfer business credit cards are very similar to the cards used for personal debt. The main difference is that they're intended for business debt, such as an outstanding balance on a business credit card, owed by someone who owns a small business or is self-employed. Balance transfer credit cards for business typically share the same features as a consumer balance transfer card, including introductory zero-APR offers and balance transfer fees.
Getting denied for a balance transfer usually means one of three things. One, the amount you're trying to transfer is higher than your credit limit. Two, you didn't make the transfer deadline (for most issuers, within three months of getting the card). Or three, you tried to transfer a balance owed to the same issuer that approved you for the new card, something that most issuers don't allow. Whatever the case, contact the issuer immediately. If it involves your credit limit, you might have to try transferring a smaller amount.

* See the online application for details about terms and conditions for these offers. Every reasonable effort has been made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. After you click on the offer you desire you will be directed to the credit card issuer's web site where you can review the terms and conditions for your selected offer.

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, is accurate as of the publish date. All products or services are presented without warranty. Check the bank’s website for the most current information.